A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this latest cinematic take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers could definitely scare kids, despite the fact that much of its violence is implied instead of shown. Not that it's short on action-violence scenes: There's a space shuttle crash, lots of loud car crashes, fights/struggles, and bloody shootings. And the alien virus leaves humans looking creepy (crusty, featureless, and wheezing), before they're turned into eerie copies of themselves. The movie -- which is structured to reflect the main character's disjointed state of mind -- cuts back and forth quickly in time in ways that might confuse younger viewers. Language is brief (one or two uses of "s--t" and "damn"), there's some social drinking, and Carol downs pills to stay awake.
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What's the story?
THE INVASION is the fourth film version of Jack Finney's 1955 novel (previous adaptations include the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake). But the alien-engineered change that threatens humans in this version is no longer a matter of pods that enclose victims while they sleep, but a virus-like "highly resilient organism" transmitted through body fluids. It is up to Dr. Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), Washington, D.C. psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) and her colleague, Ben (Daniel Craig), to discover the antidote.
Is it any good?
The film indicates Carol's personal chaos with its fragmented, sometimes hard-to-follow storyline, which cuts back and forth in time. Bent over his microscope, Dr. Galeano isn't a likely action movie hero, and neither are his cohorts; the change in this old story's plot suits our current times. And Carol's perspective also limits potential philosophical questions. When her ex, Tucker (Jeremy Northam), tries to infect their young son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), with the organism, he insists that it's for the boy's good, to be part of "our world," where everyone feels peaceful and "the same" (news reports reveal that the rest of the world is changing: Darfur declares a ceasefire, the Iraqi president calls off suicide bombings, and Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush appear together, all smiles and agreements). As Tucker puts it, this conformity by force isn't so different from the pills Carol prescribes for her unhappy patients: Everyone just wants to "feel better."
The hitch is that the new world cannot brook difference, so anyone who's immune to the transition or otherwise resists it is eliminated -- brutally. And so the film undergoes its own change, from sharp paranoid thriller to noisy action flick, with lots of shooting and cars crashing, a chase in D.C.'s metro system, and a by-the-numbers helicopter rescue. Sadly, all this physical commotion eventually prevails over the film's more complicated questions about fear, independence, and social order.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of implied violence in scary movies. Are movies scarier when they show violent acts taking place on screen or when those acts are left to your imagination? Why? Families can also discuss what message the movie is trying to send, if any. Do you think the aliens' proposed choice -- sameness without fighting, or individualism and selfishness accompanied by war and conflict -- is meant to reflect any specific issues in today's society?
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